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# Shortcuts to memorize thirds

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(@rgalvez)
Prominent Member
Joined: 18 years ago
Posts: 717
Topic starter

OK I know how to memorize fifths, fourths and even sixths (I memorized the circle of fifths quite well).Do you know any shorcuts to memorize thirds? I sometimes think about them as the semitone below the fourth, but it's sometimes too long to think about it. any ideas? thank you again.

(@fretsource)
Prominent Member
Joined: 18 years ago
Posts: 973

What do you mean by memorizing them? - and do you just mean major 3rds (semitone below the 4th)?

You've memorised the order of perfect 5ths and 4ths from the circle of fifths. That's fine because you can get every possible note that way. But with thirds you'd need to mix major and minor 3rds to get every note. Using just major 3rds you get C E G# B# (=C) and that's it. Using minor 3rds you get C Eb Gb Bbb (=A) & Dbb (=C) and again, that's all.

If you just want the "letter name 3rds" without regard to them being major or minor, you get every letter, but not every note, i.e., C E G B D F A C - So the 3rd of every major or minor scale is the next letter up, but there's nothing to tell you whether it's sharp flat or natural. e.g., the 3rd of B major must be D something. So it doesn't really help much

Sorry if I've completely misunderstood your question. I think I must have because you say you've memorised 6ths too. How did you do that? 6ths are just inverted 3rds so it's exactly the same problem.

(@rgalvez)
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Joined: 18 years ago
Posts: 717
Topic starter

You're right. I meant major 3'rds (I know that if I want a minor third I have to flat it). And how I memorized the 6th's ? easy : i have the picture of the circle of 5th's and I know that the sixths are three notes at the right of the root: Ie C is the root, then it comes the V (G), then the D (II) and then the VI (A)..I know the next one is the III (E), but if I want to have a quick answer for the III this method is not practical. Yes, the sixth's are inverted thirds.

(@fretsource)
Prominent Member
Joined: 18 years ago
Posts: 973

Ah I see. You're using the circle of 5ths to find 6ths, which are 3 steps along, but 3rds are 4 along, which is one step too many to be useful. I thought you were looking for some kind of circle of 3rds.
All I can suggest is 'brute force memorisation' of every major scale. There's only 15 key signatures involved, so it wouldn't take forever to do it. Then you'll instantly be able to name the maj 3rd above any note. If it's a note such as G# that doesn't have a valid major scale, then you just think G and add a sharp to the answer B>B#. But, apart from that, don't rely on shortcuts for something as fundamental as major scales - get to know them thoroughly.

(@noteboat)
Illustrious Member
Joined: 21 years ago
Posts: 4921

Yep, brute force - but indirectly: memorize the spellings of all the major scales. Then memorize the spellings of their triads (use the dominant 7 for the V).

This does a bunch of things, all related - you'll know your scales. You'll know your arpeggios. Since you've memorized sixths, you'll know your relative minor keys.

And since the major scale is the grand-daddy of all things music theory, knowing them all cold helps you in tons of ways. I didn't actually memorize all 15* until I was in college - and I was almost immediately sorry I hadn't done it sooner.

* - not a typo; there are 15 major scales for the 12 steps of the chromatic scale - B major can also be Cb major (rare), Db major can also be C# major (rare) and F# major can also be Gb major (not as rare)

Guitar teacher offering lessons in Plainfield IL

(@rgalvez)
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Joined: 18 years ago
Posts: 717
Topic starter

Thanks again guys!You're right I think there's no other way to do that. I enrolled in a course of jazz harmony and improv and the prerequisite is to to know all major and minor scales in all tonalities. So let's do it :))